How To Grow & Care For the Monkey Tail Cactus

Monkey Tail Cactus

The Monkey Tail Cactus, also known as Cleistocactus winteri subsp. colademononis, is a fascinating and unique cactus. This intriguing plant gets its name from the long, furry-looking stems that resemble a monkey’s tail. Native to the high mountain regions of Bolivia, it can be grown in gardens or as an indoor plant, where it adds an exotic touch with its unusual appearance.

What sets the Monkey Tail Cactus apart is its hairy exterior. The soft white hairs are actually modified spines, which protect the plant from harsh sun and help it retain moisture. During its blooming season, the cactus produces beautiful, tubular red flowers, adding to its allure.

Growing the Monkey Tail Cactus is not particularly complex but does require understanding its specific needs regarding light, water, soil, and temperature. Here’s a comprehensive guide to growing and caring for this peculiar yet captivating plant.

Common NamesMonkey Tail Cactus
Botanical NameCleistocactus winteri subsp. colademononis
Plant TypeSucculent, Cactus
Mature SizeUp to 3 feet
Sun ExposureFull sun to partial shade
Soil TypeWell-draining cactus mix
Hardiness Zones9-11
Native AreaBolivia

Monkey Tail Cactus Care

Monkey Tail Cactus care is relatively straightforward for those familiar with succulents and cacti. This plant thrives on sunlight and needs well-draining soil to prevent root rot. It’s also relatively drought-resistant, making it suitable for arid climates or as an indoor plant with minimal watering needs.

When growing indoors, it’s crucial to provide enough light, either through a bright window or with supplemental lighting. Additionally, because of its unique hairy spines, it’s essential to keep the Monkey Tail Cactus clean from dust, which can accumulate and harm the plant.

Light Requirement for Monkey Tail Cactus

The Monkey Tail Cactus thrives in full sun to partial shade. If growing indoors, place it near a south-facing window, or provide artificial grow lights to mimic its natural sun exposure.

Soil Requirements for Monkey Tail Cactus

Well-draining soil is essential for the Monkey Tail Cactus. Use a cactus or succulent mix, or create your own blend using regular potting soil, sand, and perlite. This ensures that the water drains away from the roots, preventing rot.

Water Requirements for Monkey Tail Cactus

Watering the Monkey Tail Cactus should be done sparingly. During the growing season, water it when the top inch of soil is dry. Reduce watering during the winter months. Overwatering can lead to root rot, a common problem with cacti.

Temperature and Humidity

The Monkey Tail Cactus prefers temperatures between 65-80°F (18-27°C) but can tolerate cooler temperatures in the winter. It does not require high humidity and thrives in dry conditions.


Feed the Monkey Tail Cactus with a cactus-specific fertilizer diluted to half-strength, every 4-6 weeks during the growing season. Avoid fertilizing in the winter.

Pruning Monkey Tail Cactus

Pruning is rarely necessary for the Monkey Tail Cactus. If needed, remove any dead or damaged stems using sharp, clean tools. Handle with care to avoid damaging the soft spines.

Propagating Monkey Tail Cactus

Propagation is done through cuttings. Detach a healthy stem and allow it to dry for a few days before planting in a well-draining soil mix.

How To Grow Monkey Tail Cactus From Seed

Growing from seed is possible but requires patience. Sow seeds in a cactus mix and keep them warm and slightly moist. Germination can take several weeks.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Spider Mites

Small bugs that can be treated with insecticidal soap.

Root Rot

Usually due to overwatering; ensure proper drainage.

Common Problems With Monkey Tail Cactus

Mealy Appearance

Dust or pests may cause this appearance; clean gently.

Shriveled Stems

Usually a sign of underwatering or root rot.

Pro Tips

  1. Avoid touching the soft spines as they can easily break off.
  2. Use a pot with drainage holes to prevent overwatering.
  3. Rotate the plant occasionally for even growth.
  4. If grown indoors, consider using a humidifier during winter when indoor air can be dry.
  5. Inspect regularly for dust or pests, and clean as needed.